Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 6620 MSFocus Summer 2016 While MS is not a hereditary disease, people who have a close family member with MS do have an increased risk of developing the condition (2.5 percent, as compared to 0.1 for the general population). While many parents with MS worry about this increased risk, keep in mind that the overall risk is still low. MSF Senior Medical Advisor Ben Thrower, M.D. said, “While your child may have a 2.5 percent risk of developing MS, remember that means there is a 97.5 percent chance they will not.” Until the causes of MS become clear, there is no known way to prevent MS. But there are a number of factors known to increase risk, some of which appear to be particularly related to childhood. Not all of the risk factors, such as your ethnic background or the location where you were born, can be controlled. But several – those related to our lifestyle and preventative health measures – can be easily managed. By minimizing the risk factors that we can affect, it is possible that a child’s overall risk may be reduced. Risk Factor What Research Shows Steps to Take Smoking Smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with MS than people who never smoked, and the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the risk. Vitamin D Not only do low vitamin D levels in our bodies increase risk of MS, but recent research shows that our mother’s vitamin D levels during pregnancy have a significant effect on MS risk too. Adolescent Studies have linked childhood obesity Obesity with as much as a twofold increase in the risk of developing MS. Researchers suggest this may be due to chronic, low-grade inflammation caused by obesity, or the fact that as BMI increases, levels of vitamin D in the body decrease. Sleep A Swedish study found an association between teens who did shift-work and an increased risk of MS. The researchers suggest that disruption in sleep patterns (which can contribute to inflammation) may be a factor. What About My Kids? Is it Possible to Minimize Risk? Set a good example – if you smoke, quit. Talk to your kids about smoking early, before peer pressure to smoke begins. Remember, 90 percent of adult smokers started as children. Moms-to-be, ask your obstetrician to monitor your vitamin D and carefully take your prescribed prenatal vitamins. During your child’s regular check-up, ask their pediatrician to monitor their vitamin D levels and follow the doctor’s advice for keeping vitamin D in the optimal range. Model healthy eating and encourage active play in your child. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion recommends that children participate in 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Outdoor games and sports have the added benefit of sun exposure, which increases vitamin D levels. (Just make sure your child practices sun safety!) While this connection is not conclusive, making sure your child gets adequate rest is important to their general health, and likely to controlling their risk of MS for another reason, as well – a lack of sleep can contribute to obesity. Of course, controlling these factors will not guarantee your child will not develop MS during the course of their life. However, all of these factors not only contribute to MS, but to a variety of common health concerns. Moreover, for those who do develop MS, these healthy habits may help reduce the severity or avoid relapses. There’s no downside to teaching your child these health skills and wellness practices.